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Rams Drop Game 1 to Catawba

After 671 days, Winston-Salem State finally played a football game, but the long COVID-delayed start wasn't what the Rams wanted.  WSSU's short trip to Salisbury resulted in a 28-6 loss to Catawba.

The Indians scored a touchdown in each quarter while holding the Rams to two first-half field goals.

Penalties and a crucial fourth quarter turnover were more than the Rams could overcome.  WSSU was penalized 11 times for 82 yards. The Rams also converted only twice on 11 third down conversions.

Catawba scored on its first possession of the game, driving 78 yards on 10 plays.  It appeared the Rams would counter on its next possession.  Junior transfer quarterback Cameron Lewis, making his first start, led the Rams on a 54-yard drive that ended with a 38-yard field goal by sophomore transfer Jobanni Esparza.

Lewis completed three passes for 34 yards, including a 10-yarder to freshman Garrett Whetstone that gave the Rams a first down at the Catawba 26 yard-line.

Junior Cameron Davis rushed for four yards on the next play and a five-yard offsides penalty moved the Rams to a second-and-one at the Indians 17 yard-line.  A false start penalty on the next play moved the football back to the 22. 

Following a Rams timeout with 2:19 to play in the quarter, Lewis connected with senior James Lewis for a four-yard gain.  A three-yard loss by Davis on third and two forced the Rams to settle for Esparza's first field goal.

Catawba (2-0) responded with a 77-yard drive to take a 14-3 lead with 9:09 to play in the second quarter.

WSSU answered with a 14-play 62-yard drive that stalled at the Catawba 13-yard line.  Esparza kicked a 35-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining in the half to slice the Rams' deficit to 14-6.

The Rams dominated in first-half time of possession with a 17:27 advantage to the Indians 12:33. But seven penalties for 65 yards and only two successful attempts on six third down conversions strangled WSSU's offensive attack.

The Indians went up 21-6 on a six-play, 61-yard drive with 47 seconds to play in the third quarter. 

Senior Dominique Graves assumed the quarterback position early in the fourth quarter, immediately connecting with Antjuan Collins on a 32-yard pass that gave the Rams a first down at the Catawba 18.  But Graves next pass was intercepted and returned 77 yards for an Indians touchdown that put Catawba up 28-6 with 12:02 remaining in the game.

The Rams failed to mount a scoring threat on their last two possessions of the game.

WSSU finished with 110 yards rushing and 12 of 27 passing for 127 yards.  Catawba accumulated 303 yards total offense, including 10 completions on 12 attempts for 117 passing yards.

Lewis was the Rams leading rusher with 47 yards. Collins caught six passes for 79 yards.

Defensively, senior Ta'Shaun Taylor had eight tackles, three of which were unassisted.  Senior Deiontae Jones had seven tackles, including five solos, and one fumble recovery.

WSSU travels to Durham on Saturday for a 6 pm matchup against N.C. Central.